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Mapping the extent of chancel-repair liability

05 October 2012


From the Revd Greg Yerbury
Sir, - With the deadline approaching for PCCs to register chancel-repair liability (CRL) with the Land Registry, free of charge, before 31 October 2013, one of the interesting questions is how many parishes are affected by CRL.

It is important to note that there are two distinct forms of CRL, apportioned and non-apportioned.

Apportioned liability was created by the 1936 Tithe Act, and is shown on the Record of Ascertainments. Several thousand parishes have this form of liability, where, most often, each allotment of land carries a small liability for the upkeep of the chancel. In many of these cases, the cost to PCCs of identifying and registering this CRL is likely to exceed any benefit to the church; and for the property-owner, any liability is likely to be minimal.

A liability that is "personal and several" to the owner of the land, making one owner liable for the entire chancel, is non-apportioned. This was created in a number of ways including but not limited to:

(1) by the "merging of land and extinguishment of tithes" by deed or under section 1 of the 1839 Tithe Act. This may apply to parishes with or without a record of ascertainments. In some instances, whole townships had their tithes extinguished and liability merged with the land; two examples are Poynton, and Ince in Cheshire. I imagine that this liability could include thousands of acres of land across the country.

(2) as a result of enclosure awards (the parish of Broadway is an example). Between 1757 and the 1830s, there were approximately 900 Acts of Parliament creating "land in lieu of tithes", and by the resulting enclosure award encumbering certain allotments land with CRL. The enclosure plans, which help identify the land, are scattered across many archives, but I have found 590 plans to date, and some will cover several parishes. I would estimate that about 1100 parishes have enclosure awards creating CRL, and that about two-thirds have enclosure plans.

From the enclosure awards and plans, I can confirm that Peter Luff MP (News, 10 and 31 August) is correct in his assumption that CRL applies to urban places such as Kingston upon Thames, Willesden, and Aston.

The results of my research and the location of parishes' enclosure plans are available at www.stmichaelspenkridge.co.uk.

This may enable PCCs to find the relevant enclosure awards and plans, saving time looking through a number of archives. How good the tithe maps and enclosure plans are, so that liability can be proved, is unknown until they are looked at by a surveyor.

The situation for PCCs and landowners is quite iniquitous. At the moment, the law conspires against the gospel, in requiring the Church to register CRL, even when this may damage the mission of the Church, or may risk PCC members' becoming personally liable. I believe that the issue of CRL is due to be debated in the House of Commons in a few weeks, and I hope that the Church and the Government will find a way to reconcile all the many issues related to CRL.

The Rectory, New Road
Penkridge ST19 5DN

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